The size and composition of your guest list has significant impact on your wedding. Your guest list affects the choice of venue and the cost of catering, which is charged per person. It affects the time involved in everything related to your guests, from sending invitations to the length of the reception. In a less tangible but equally important way, your guest list affects the energy or, if you prefer, the feel of your ceremony (and to an even greater extent, your reception). In general, more guests mean more of everything!
The number of guests you plan to invite has a direct relationship on your choice of venue. You want a venue that fits: not too big and not too small. This is also a cost thing: venues with a larger guest capacity usually cost more than smaller venues of similar quality.
Your guest list is just that: a list of the people you plan to invite to your wedding. The composition of your guest list has a lot to do with getting the wedding you want. You have complete control of your guest list! This is a big point.
For example, many couples ask their parents for a list of people that they would like to have invited to your wedding. That’s a loving and considerate thing to do. If and when you ask for their list, do so with the stated and clear understanding of all involved that you will ultimately decide who to invite.
For many couples, wedding planning is often a time of big change in your relationship with your family of origin. You’re now making decisions in your soon-to-be marital relationship that once were made by or with your parents. This can produce some tensions. Stay the course! Be true to your heart. Know that the effects of your decisions and the memories of your wedding will last far longer than upset and conflict that may arise (and that I will help you avoid) in the planning process.
I’ve heard many couples lament about having to do this-or-that because their parents are paying. It doesn’t have to be that way. Ideally, money offered to pay for all or part of your wedding is a gift, freely given. That gift does not give someone a seat on the board of directors of your wedding! How you choose to use the money is your decision alone. (Take heart: we’ll tackle family harmony and money in columns to come!)
Nevertheless, some gifts come with strings attached. You want to know about that up front, before you decide to accept a gift and its conditions. Understand that you’ll give away lots of control if you allow someone to buy the ability to invite guests to your wedding.
My favorite and, I think, the most useful piece of advice about your guest list comes from Judith Martin, also known as Miss Manners, who says: “Invite the people you love and who love you.” Really, who else do you want at your wedding? You want to look at every face, every single person, and think, “I’m glad you’re here!” What a wonderful criterion for choosing guests for your wedding!
Here’s the bottom line: it’s your wedding, and your decision. Who do you want to be present at the start of your marital journey? Think of the people in your life who care for you and support you, and with whom you share your joys and sorrows. Those are the people you want to invite to your wedding!
Next time: we’ll discuss in detail how all of this comes to bear on different types of potential wedding guests.